If you are interested in stories with silly main characters who find themselves in inexplicable scenarios and can’t act, then don’t worry, Netflix has that in the vast array of Happy Madison films that will fit your needs. If, however, you are intrigued, a word which here means “interested”, in stories that showcase a brilliant range of good and bad acting, stellar scripting, dazzling design and melodious music, then the only proviso is you don’t mind that there’s no happy ending. At least not yet…
When you mention the name Lemony Snicket to the right person, they will immediately bring up either the multi-million copy selling children’s book series about three orphans attempting to escape the clutches of a psychotically greedy actor, or the film based off of said series starring the likes of Jim Carrey, Meryl Streep, Billy Connolly and Catherine O’Hara. But the film, despite being a very modest critical and financial success, did not go anywhere after it’s showing. Ideas for a sequel were tossed around for a few years until it ultimately became far too late for it to work properly. So the prospect of what could have been hung around until late 2014, when Netflix announced that they would be producing a new TV series based on the books. Just under a year later, hype was raised by the release of a new trailer… even though Netflix didn’t make it and nearly nothing definite was sorted for the series yet. That would tell you how willing a lot of us are to be emotionally drained of happiness to see this series done right.
The series revolves around the exploits of Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire (Melina Wasserman, Louis Hynes and Presley Smith, voiced by Tara Strong), three kind, intelligent children who become orphans after their parents are killed in an unexpected house fire. That would be a bummer enough, but their troubles only begin with the arrival of their new guardian, the villainous Count Olaf (Neil Patrick Harris), who only seems intent of obtaining the Baudelaire fortune. As the Baudelaires are passed on a cavalcade of new guardians by the dim-witted Mr Poe (K. Todd Freeman), such as Justice Strauss (Joan Cusack), Uncle Monty (Aasif Mandvi), Aunt Josephine (Alfre Woodard), and the arrogant Sir (Don Johnson) and his partner Charles (Rhys Darby), the children have to defend themselves from the might of the Count and his villainous troupe, and his ex-girlfriend, and hypnotist, Dr Orwell (Catherine O’Hara). But as they fend off event after unfortunate event, they soon begin to realise that something else is at play, something much bigger, that will only begin to unveil the true connections between the Baudelaires, the villainous Olaf, and a certain reporter named Lemony Snicket (Patrick Warburton)…
Where the hell do I begin? Well, being a fan of both the books and the movie (not to mention, the stellar audiobook readings, performed by the sweet transvestite himself, ‘Sir’ Tim Curry), I may be a slight bit biased in this review. So, to be fairer, I took a look at the very critical but understanding reviews from The Dom (link here) to get a better view of the series from an outsider. And in the end…. I’M SORRY BUT I STILL RUDDY LOVE THIS THING!! This is the perfect evolution of the story from one format into another. Overseen by Snicket’s correspondent, Daniel Handler and executive producer Barry Sonnenfield, plus a good number of other talented ladies and gentlemen, the series takes the approach of giving two single hour long episodes for each book, allowing them to cram in as much detail as possible. But, as pointed out by The Dom in his reviews, this also has the air of a reboot as well as an adaptation, as the storylines of the first four books have now been fixed to include some details that would have only become apparent in later books. Sometimes this works, other times it doesn’t, but on the whole, Handler’s intentions are understandable, and begin to get us sucked into the much wider mystery. I mean, tell me if you saw the payoff of all those end scenes coming a mile away!
The cast are pretty stellar too, save for one or two instances of acting, rather than a problem with the actors. As far as the actors go, EVERYONE IS BLOODY PERFECT!!!! The six main cast are just perfect for this, especially little Presley, who manages to just about steal every scene she’s in by pure cuteness and talent. The guest cast are all fantastic as well with props to Mandvi and Woodard for being my favourites out of all the performances seen in the series. And Warburton…. If you were worried that Joe from Family Guy would be distracting you, put your worries to rest. Warburton excels as Snicket, delivering his dry and dark humour in a completely believable manner that shows his reluctance at having to relive the events but must for the sake of truth. And the music, MY GOD THE MUSIC!! I mean Thomas Newman’s absolutely perfect film score can’t be beaten, but that doesn’t stop James Newton Howard, whose compositions here are a brilliant companion piece to the events onscreen, heightening every last action and emotion. That and the brilliantly catchy theme tune sung by Harris himself. That song will never leave your head.
I could go on and on and on and on about how much I love this series and that you should check it out immediately, but I’d be repeating myself for about the 667thtime in the space of this review. Suffice to say, it needs to be given a shot. And if you don’t like it, that’s fine, it’s your opinion. But, if like me, you’re a fan of the books and the movie, this series will not be an unfortunate event.
VERDICT: 9/10 – Don’t listen to the theme song. Don’t look away. Watch this glorious piece of Netflix goodness.